The introduction of the Mandalorian, Baby Yoda and other new Star Wars characters in Galaxy’s Edge means for the first time Disneyland will be telling more than one story in Black Spire Outpost along the vast timeline of the epic science fiction saga.
The Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge themed land at the Anaheim theme park was always envisioned as a big canvas for telling many different Star Wars stories all at once with a wide host of characters, according to Walt Disney Imagineering’s Scott Trowbridge.
“It is a place that can connect with the entire range of Star Wars storytelling from the High Republic era a thousand years ago all the way to where we may be going a thousand years in the future,” said Trowbridge, who oversees the Star Wars portfolio at Imagineering.
What’s changed since Galaxy’s Edge opened in May 2019? Disney+ debuted in November 2019 and exploded in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic — bringing a vast library of new Star Wars TV shows and movies to the streaming service, some of which have yet to even roll out.
“Since then, we’ve been telling stories across a much broader range of time,” said Trowbridge, who was the creative lead for the Galaxy’s Edge themed lands at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. “We haven’t really activated that in the parks.”
Until now. Disney+ has opened up a wide array of Star Wars storytelling possibilities in Black Spire Outpost, the outer rim village on the Star Wars planet of Batuu that serves as the home of the Galaxy’s Edge themed lands in California and Florida.
It’s taken longer than expected, but breakout characters from the newest Star Wars stories on Disney+ are starting to appear in Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland.
Bounty hunters Boba Fett and Fennec Shand from “The Book of Boba Fett” showed up in Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland in late May. Din Djarin and Grogu — better known as the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda — from “The Mandalorian” will be dropping by Black Spire Outpost in Batuu West at a later date.
Boba Fett and his mercenary partner were the first new Star Wars characters introduced to Galaxy’s Edge since the grand opening of the themed land in 2019 that brought Kylo Ren, Rey, Chewbacca, Resistance spy Vi Moradi and a few stormtroopers to Batuu.
“At the time that we opened, almost all of our storytelling was set around a pretty limited chunk of time and a limited chunk of characters — Kylo, Rey and that central Episode 7, 8 and 9 story set,” Trowbridge said during an online video interview. “That was the Star Wars storytelling that our audiences were participating in and the storytelling that we invited them to be a part of when they came into the park. Everything in the land was working in that same time bubble.”
The Star Wars galactic calendar marks time on either side of the attack on the Death Star, known as the Battle of Yavin. Dates fall before the Battle of Yavin (BBY) or after the universe-saving attack (ABY). Until recently, Galaxy’s Edge was set between “The Last Jedi” in 34 ABY and “The Rise of Skywalker” in 35 ABY.
The introduction of Boba, Fennec, Mando and Grogu to Galaxy’s Edge marks the first time characters from outside that very limited timeline of 34 to 35 ABY have shown up in the Star Wars land.
“Although it was designed into the land from the very start, the idea of expanding beyond a single moment in time is now ready to be put into action,” Trowbridge said. “Had it not been for the twists and turns of a global pandemic, it is likely we would have done this earlier.”
The small change is a big deal for Star Wars fans who have been begging Imagineering and Lucasfilm to expand the cast of characters who appear in Galaxy’s Edge.
Imagineering has taken two starkly different approaches in the parks with Disney’s marquee franchises — Star Wars and Marvel.
Disney’s creative arm has been very careful not to introduce any new characters that would upset the galactic timeline in Galaxy’s Edge — which is considered canon in Star Wars lore. Across the esplanade, new superheroes have been dropping into Avengers Campus with the debut of virtually every new Marvel show on Disney+ ever since the land opened at Disney California Adventure in June 2021.
Imagineering and Lucasfilm are taking a more nuanced approach to character appearances in Galaxy’s Edge now that Boba, Mando and friends are joining Kylo and company.
The subtle adjustments made by Imagineering and Lucasfilm to the Galaxy’s Edge storytelling rules allow for characters from different stories and eras in the sweeping Star Wars timeline to appear in the themed land at the same time — as long as their stories don’t intersect and disrupt the Force.
Since Galaxy’s Edge is canon, it’s a bad idea from a storytelling standpoint to casually introduce Mando or The Child into Batuu in 35 ABY. That means those characters can’t die in stories taking place over the next quarter century of the Star Wars timeline. Lucasfilm and Imagineering would not want to impact untold stories or tie the hands of future Star Wars storytellers.
“The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett” are both set in 9 ABY. Dropping Mando and Boba into 35 ABY in Galaxy’s Edge would mean canonically they won’t and can’t die for another 26 years in the Star Wars universe — diminishing any life-or-death drama the bounty hunters encounter.
Change was always intended to be a constant in Black Spire Outpost. The introduction of new characters in town simply required an added layer of storytelling rules to keep the diverse Star Wars stories and eras from mixing in ways they never would or should.
“It was always the plan that we would evolve,” Trowbridge said. “We would never have locked the thing at one point in time and tried to live with one story for 50 years and ignore all Star Wars storytelling.”
Imagineering’s solution to the simple yet complex storytelling challenge: Story bubbles.
Story bubbles help avoid storytelling and timeline conflicts and allow multiple Star Wars stories to be told at the same time in Galaxy’s Edge — something that has not happened until now.
“The whole place is not participating unilaterally across a single story all the time,” Trowbridge said. “We can move between those stories.”
Each character or set of characters now stays in their own story bubble in Galaxy’s Edge so they don’t accidentally bump into a tale being told elsewhere in the land. In theatrical terms, each story has its own stage. In practice, that means “The Mandalorian” characters won’t step foot in an area of Black Spire Outpost where the sequel trilogy storyline is unfolding and vice versa. Invisible buffers keep the stories from overlapping in the sprawling 14-acre land.
That allows stories from both 9 ABY and 35 ABY — as well as tales from any part of the vast Star Wars universe — to be told at the same time in Galaxy’s Edge without impacting the timeline or canon of any of the sci-fi epics.
In many ways, story bubbles have always been used in Galaxy’s Edge — allowing Kylo Ren to interrogate a Disneyland visitor about the whereabouts of the Millennium Falcon while standing around the corner from the iconic starship.
The best way to think of Galaxy’s Edge now is like Disney+ — where you can switch between different Star Wars stories using a remote control without getting them confused in your head.
“Just like we do when we’re watching ‘Rogue One’ and then ‘The Mandalorian,’ we are aware of these different stories,” Trowbridge said. “Sometimes we know things the characters don’t. Sometimes we know their fate before they do. Galaxy’s Edge operates the same way.”
Audiences — whether they are TV viewers or theme park visitors — are accustomed to flipping between Star Wars stories without the storylines and timelines contradicting each other.
“We may be seeing little snippets of things that have happened in Batuu, but they’re not necessarily from the same moment,” Trowbridge said. “I think of those as little bubbles of stories. Little flashbacks and flash forwards that we can walk into and out of. They don’t ever contradict the story or contradict each other.”
Just like in the movies, the key to Star Wars storytelling in a theme park setting is authenticity.
“Each one of those snippets has to feel like I’m actually seeing a real moment that happened in Black Spire Outpost and these characters are here in this moment,” Trowbridge said. “Their story intersects with this place and I can step into that and participate in it. Then later on, I can participate in another bit of storytelling that’s unrelated, but that’s still an authentic piece of Star Wars storytelling.”
Galaxy’s Edge was designed from the outset to live to the side of the major Star Wars canonical timeline.
“Batuu is a place that feels like it has been there for a thousand years and will be there for a thousand more,” Trowbridge said. “That allows us to treat it as a place that is to some extent timeless.”
Imagineering always intended for Galaxy’s Edge to be a timeless and flexible storytelling platform that would change and evolve as the continuing Star Wars story unfolded.
“That flexible platform allows us to connect with Star Wars stories, fandom and zeitgeist no matter where our guests are on that journey,” Trowbridge said. “It can connect with the past 40 years of Star Wars storytelling and the next 40 years of Star Wars storytelling.”
Imagineering and Lucasfilm never meant for Disneyland visitors to get the idea that Galaxy’s Edge would be locked in a single moment of the Star Wars era — but that’s what happened nonetheless.
“When we opened Galaxy’s Edge, almost all of our Star Wars storytelling was centered around one timeframe,” Trowbridge said. “That set an example we never meant to set — that this place is locked in time forever and we’re going to ignore the next 40 years of Star Wars stories.”
The plan all along was for Galaxy’s Edge to serve as a stage for the most current version of Star Wars playing in people’s heads.
“Right now, that is very much about Mandalorian and Boba Fett,” Trowbridge said. “That timeframe is on everyone’s TV all the time, in their lives and on their T-shirts.”
When it comes to Galaxy’s Edge, Trowbridge thinks in terms of stories rather than characters. The question isn’t “Which characters belong in Galaxy’s Edge?” The question is: “Which stories can be told in Black Spire Outpost?” For Trowbridge, the stories come first and the characters naturally follow.
“It’s less about a list of characters who may appear in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, but what stories make sense for them to participate in there,” Trowbridge said. “Not every character we meet throughout all Star Wars storytelling would intersect with the story of Black Spire Outpost.”
It makes perfect sense that bounty hunters like Boba Fett, Fennec Shand and Din Djarin would be roaming around a shady outer rim outpost like Batuu where rogues and smugglers hang out.
“The bounty hunter was an archetype that we felt we wanted, but didn’t have,” Trowbridge said. “It makes sense for those characters to be there.”
Not every Star Wars story works in Black Spire Outpost just like not every Star Wars character has visited Batuu — or would have a reason to be on the edge of the galaxy. Similarly, not every Star Wars story can play out simultaneously in Galaxy’s Edge.
“While the Star Wars storytelling galaxy is unlimited in size and scope, our parks are not,” Trowbridge said. “So we will intentionally curate which stories we bring to life with an eye toward those that complement each other well.”
Dead characters can also appear in Galaxy’s Edge — if it makes sense.
Spoiler alert: Kylo Ren dies at the end of the sequel trilogy — but is very much alive between Episodes 8 and 9 when the initial timeframe was set for Galaxy’s Edge. As die-hard fans know, Force-sensitive characters have a way of showing up again in Star Wars stories after they meet their seemingly final demise.
Anakin Skywalker has been to Black Spire Outpost in the Thrawn series of Star Wars books.
“We already know some of the story about his visits to Black Spire Outpost,” Trowbridge said. “We’ve not chosen to bring that to life. It could have always happened.”
Trowbridge won’t say which Star Wars stories are coming next to Black Spire Outpost or which ones can and never will show up on Batuu — but he does say there are many more stories to tell in Galaxy’s Edge.
“There’s a lot of Star Wars storytelling yet to come and we’re going to connect and keep up with that Star Wars storytelling,” Trowbridge said. “We built this place so guests could participate in Star Wars and that means participating in the Star Wars that’s in their heads right now.”